Wrapping Up 2011

I’ve been trying to think of a clever post to end the year and welcome the new one, but I can’t seem to rally any real creativity this week.  I worked myself pretty thin leading up to Christmas and since then I’ve basically been couch – bound, resting up and relaxing and enjoying the lack of a deadline.  It also doesn’t help that we have finally caught on to the “Dr. Who” craze, and have been watching it every night (starting with the 2005 season).  The kids are obsessed and I couldn’t be happier.

So instead of something witty or profound, I will use this chance to catch up on a few things.

I’ll start with bread.

One of my early Christmas gifts this year (and Susan got me a second one in a different size!) was an enameled cast iron dutch oven pot.  I’d been wanting one for quite awhile, after seeing this book about baking artisan bread in a pot rather than on a peel.  I tried some when Zac made it at the farm and was in love with the results.

You pre-heat the empty pot in the oven and throw your risen dough into it.  Once you place the lid on, the  water in the dough creates the steam needed to properly bake and finish the bread.  The crust in crispier without being too chewy or dense and the crumb is more reliably cooked through this way.  Plus the pot is such a pretty green!

Thing number two I need to show off is the lovely ornament my friend Amy found for me.

I just love her!  I love the creamy white colors, I love that it’s a shepherd with her sheep, and I love the vintage look about it (in fact, it just may BE vintage: Amy has quite a knack for finding amazing vintage and estate items for a steal).  It’s so hard to find sheep – related trinkets that aren’t totally tacky.  I don’t know where she found this, but I am thrilled she did!

Speaking of all things sheep-ish, I finished one of my super – secret holiday knitting projects in time to gift it!

A Sluggy Bonnett for my mother!  I can’t even believe how fast this knit up – it only took me 2 days!  I should have started earlier and made Sluggy Bonnetts for everyone!  I still have 1 super secret project on the needles, but it’s just about done.  I’ll be sending it off to its intended recipient just after the new year.  But here’s a sneak peek of the yearn sitting on my new swift:

Today and tomorrow will be spent cleaning up the holiday clutter and making room for 2012. The girls and I are headed to a get – together this evening (after which I’ll have to talk them out of staying up until dawn watching Dr. Who) and then we’ll spend the first cold months of 2012 doing a lot of what we do best:

Reading!  The girls all got Kindles for Christmas (mostly for school, but when you enjoy reading as much as we do……..).

Enjoy the rest of 2011 and I’ll see you all on the other side!


Pre-Holiday Caper

For those of you who haven’t seen the story on Susan’s blog already, we had quite a fun adventure a few days before Christmas.

Susan called me one evening and I asked if I would like to help her pick up some baby cows.  An hour and a half away.  In my truck. The thing about this kind of this is that YES.  Yes this is the kind of thing I would say YES to.  Also, Susan and I haven’t been on a road trip together in ages, and this mini trip promised the kinds of fun we could talk about well into the future.

So we loaded up our “Ram Cram” box into the back of the suburban and headed out after a quick run through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru for large iced coffees all around.  Did I mention Zac came with us?  I think he was picturing a fun and relaxing road trip.  I think Susan and I were thinking it would be fun to have along someone else to do all the hard work.

Fortunately we had great weather and the drive was easy.  Before we knew it, we were there, staring down the reality of cramming 3 calves into the truck.

One cow in place.  At about 2 and a half weeks old, these guys are just under 100 lbs each.  In a year’s time they’ll each top out around 1,000 lbs or so.

Cow number 2 in place.  These two are called “Madison” and “Monroe”.

And cow number 3!  This cute little brown guy is called “Jefferson”.

With some trepidation I closed the hatch and we started our drive back to Juniper Moon Farm.  They were a bit anxious and had trouble adjusting to the movement at first, but after a bit they settled down (and thought the lights and hooks in the ceiling were teats).

Susan got to hang out in back and get lots of cow kisses.  These little boys are very friendly.

We felt quite smug cruising down the highway with our haul.

Caroline was thrilled to come out and help us get them all situated in the barn and nuzzle their sweet faces.

Once they’re full grown it’ll be hard to believe we ever managed this, but we certainly won’t forget how much fun it was.

I can’t wait to see what she’ll ask me to put in my truck next!


Final Day Challenge – Hamantashen

Okay, so Hamantashen aren’t a true Christmas cookie.  They’re a traditional Purim cookie.  But, hey.  They’re yummy!

This recipe comes via my husband’s family.


2 bars of butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

4 tsp baking powder

4 cups flour

Solo brand fillings of choice  ( we like apricot, prune, strawberry & poppy seed)

Start by creaming together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, orange juice and vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour, salt & baking powder.  Add this mix slowly to the wet ingredients.  Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour  – or overnight.

Once chilled, roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness.  Using a round cookie cutter (or glass) cut round shapes into the dough.

Place a dollop (about 1/2 tsp) of filling in the center of each circle.  Next, you’ll need to fold in the edges to form a triangle.

Start with one side.

Fold it over at a jaunty angle. The, fold the oppostire side at a jaunty angle, so they slightly overlap.

Now fold up the bottom.

Now you’re ready to bake them.  375 for 15 minutes.

Voila! Delicious Hamantashen!!!

And with that, I have completed my self – imposed 6 days of baking challenge.

I am exhausted.

But Santa is coming tonight!

Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah – and I hope all of your crafty and foodie dreams come true this holiday season!



Day 5 – Florentine Cookies!

Let me just say: I just love Susan Branch.  I use so many of her recipes at Christmas.

Today I made Florentine Cookies.  You can find the recipe online HERE.

To start, I made candied orange peel.  This is the step that took the longest.  You can certainly buy candied orange peel to save time, but it won’t be quite the same.  To candy orange peel you cut it into little strips or squares and boil it in water, drain it, and repeat 2 or 3 times to remove the bitterness.  Then you boil the peel again with a small amount of water and some sugar.

Once your orange peel is done, the cookies are a snap to make.

Boil together your milk and sugar, add your orange peel (I didn’t use citron – I doubled up the orange peel), almonds, extract, flour and butter.

Once all of this is boiled together it looks like this:

It’s pretty gooey.  You have to use a teaspoon now to drop small little rounds of dough onto your cookie sheet.

While baking they will SPREAD, so you have to be sure to use no more than a teaspoon.

See? You end up needing to reshape them somewhat since they don’t always spread out evenly.

Once cooled, you can spread melted chocolate on the back of your cookies, and, using a fork, make little zig-zag designs in it.  This is really just for fun, though.

I like to stick them in the fridge or freezer at this point to speed up the cooling process so the chocolate hardens back up.

These are unbelievably delicious and mouth watering.  I like to hide a few of them from the rest of the family for me to enjoy when no one’s around.

Don’t tell.


Cookie Challenge, Day 4

Tonight’s a short post to let you know I haven’t fallen off my cookie challenge wagon, but I’ve had a long and exciting day picking up 3 cows for Susan and driving them back to the farm.

Three cows in the back in my suburban, yes.  There are pictures to come, I promise!

But for now, Linzer Cookies!

First, you’ll need to start out with the same butter cookie dough I used for the frosted cut – outs: Susan Branch’s ‘Annie Hall’s Butter Cookes’.

The dough gets rolled out once more and you’ll need your cookie cutters – or better, linzer cookie cuttersI have a linzer set I use which consists of a star – shaped cookie cutter and several very small cutters of various sizes for the center.

You cut out as many stars as you like, and half of them get the centers cut out (2 stars become 1 cookie).

Then you bake them and let them cool.  Once cooled, spoon a small dollop of jam (or whatever sweet filling you prefer) onto a whole star.  On a separate plate, dust confectioner’s sugar over the stars with the centers cut out.  Then place the sugar stars on top of the jam stars and voila!

Linzer cookies!

These don’t last very long around here, let me tell you!

Cookie Challenge, Day 3

Today’s cookie is so easy and quick you can whip it up for last minute guests.  I wove in ends and put finishing touches on a knitting project while making them.  The recipe is once again courtesy of Susan Branch, and can be found here.

Paul loves these macaroons.  They’re chewy and chocolatey and just enough decadent for holiday baking.

Since they were so easy and quick I have plenty of time left over to clean up and watch It’s A Wonderful Life (in black and white.  I maintain only heretics watch it colorized)  before we head out for a family tradition: driving around to look at all the Christmas lights.  It helps put us all in that holiday frame of mind.  I like to do it as close to the day as I can, because it gets us all super excited for Santa!

Surprise! The Amazing Win I Never Saw Coming

Waaay back in the beginning of November I got hooked on a site / idea called “Wovember”.  The basic idea was to raise “wool awareness”; that real wool comes from sheep.  Behind every wool product you buy is a real animal and the shepherd who raised it.  There’s a whole farm economy and lifestyle in there that many people don’t even think about when picking out their woolens (or worse, their synthetics).

The fun part of “Wovember” for many of us was the challenge to wear  100% wool all month long.  Hand – knit socks from pure fine wool? Check.  Hand knit sweater from Juniper Moon Farm yarn? Check.  A commitment to only buy 100% non – synthetic wool products? Check.  You get the idea.

Then my friend Anna convinced me to enter a photo into the Wovember photo contest.  It was a photo of her holding a JMF sheep she had sheared this fall.  So I thought, why stop there?  I searched out a few other photos I had taken at the farm and submitted a few of my favorites, never dreaming anything would come of it.  I mean, the other entries in the contest were jaw – droppingly stunning, super adorable and very woolly.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from >Kate Davies.  I won first prize in the Sheep Photos category with this photo of Neve:

I am honored,  excited, and most of all, stunned.  Sheep and wool are near and dear to my heart and I am thrilled to have taken part in this!

Two (or three) in One Bonus Post!

For day two of the self imposed cookie – a – day challenge, I made gingerbread cookies.  And sugar cookies.  I was an over – achiever today.

I usually use a Susan Branch recipe for BOTH gingerbread cut -outs and butter cookie cut – outs, but I discovered I was out of corn syrup and had to find another way to go for the gingerbread.  Luckily, I have a wonderful resource (other than the internet!): The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Also luckily, I found an online source to link to HERE for all of you of said recipe.

The dough is very simple to make, rolls out nicely, and smells divine in the oven.

There’s also no eggs in the dough so it’s even harder not to eat it raw.

Since I pulled out all the cookie cutters and whatnot I figured I’d whip out the butter cookies as well.  This is where Susan Branch comes in again with her Annie Hall’s Butter Cookies recipe.

This recipe makes a ton of cookies and is rich yet not overly so.

I made dozens and dozens of cookie shapes and set them out on the table along with frosting and sprinkles for the kids to decorate.  It kept them good and busy for quite awhile, and I didn’t have to do it.

Soon that tub will be overflowing with a cornucopia of sugar and more sugar.

Now, since I am over-achieving, I decided that in honor of tonight being the first night of Hanukkah we may as well have one of our favorite meals: Blueberry Blintzes.

Oh yeah.

I start out making my tried and true crepe recipe:

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBS sugar

2 TBS melted butter.

Whisk  all together and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While that is resting, I made the blintz filling.  I searched around the internet (well, Pinterest anyway) and got an idea for the general “feel” of a cheese filling.  SO I mixed up a cup of small curd cottage cheese, a package of cream cheese, and a quarter cup of sugar.

Once the crepe batter was ready to go I made them the usual way (in a crepe pan or frying pan) by spreading out the batter into a very thin pancake and flipping once it browned.

When all the batter was used up I rolled a good large spoonful of cheese filling into each crepe burrito – style and sauteed it about 2 or 3 minutes on each side until heated through and somewhat browned.

I didn’t have any fresh blueberries on hand, but I did have a can of blueberry pie filling.  I heated that up in the microwave while the blintzes were cooking.

When everything was ready, I placed a blintz on the plate with a dollop of blueberry topping.  If I had been thinking, I could have added a little whipped cream as well.  Next time.

A little bit of heaven on a plate.





Cookie a Day Challenge

December has been the kind of month that gives a person whiplash.  I’ve had school work to do with the kids, photo shooting to help out with at the farm, 3 days of awful sickness, a cookie party to clean and plan for, and decorating to do.

THIS week, however, all of that is behind me.  All of the shopping is done, picture – taking and posing are done, partying with my book club and friends accomplished.

Therefore, starting today – Monday – I am giving myself a completely unnecessary challenge; bake one kind of cookie every day until Christmas.  This is the kind of challenge that should result in a wide variety of cookies for us to enjoy all week with a less hectic kitchen.  It’s also the kind of plan that, once Paul gets wind of it, will create in him an almost manic glee resulting most likely in an impatient expectancy for each new batch.

Today’s batch is complete: Rugelach!


These are maybe our favorite holiday cookie.  Last year I posted the recipe and you can find it here.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s cookie: Gingerbread cut-outs!


Counting Down the Days

As the days race toward Christmas it is getting more and more difficult to keep the kids focused on schoolwork.  They’ve got the proverbial “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads”. 

Admittedly, I do as well.  If I weren’t so busy with the business of school, housework, grocery shopping and all the other mundane tasks that take up my time I would be spending my days on holiday crafts and making every corner of the house bright.

Today I relented somewhat, and after some perfunctory math and writing exercises we dove into some paper crafts.  Hand prints on brown paper became reindeer ornaments, colored construction paper became the backdrop for wintery tomten pictures.

I am quite taken with Scandinavian style and folklore, and the tomten is no exception.  I think I like him particularly because of his traditional connection to farmers.  On a lark I traced out a paper cut design to see if I could make a reasonable garland from red paper.

Well, it is reasonable.  I didn’t say I was making a stellar garland.  I wanted this for over the kitchen sink, and that is where these little fellows hang, for now.  The construction paper was a bit too something.  Not quite right for this project.  Tissue paper was too thin.  I am thinking I will re-do this not on paper, but perhaps on felt.  Much sturdier, no need for tape.  That way it can also be reused every year.  Perhaps some single appliques for pillows even?

This holiday season is going to fly by way too quickly for me to accomplish all of the blissfully fun things I want to do.  St. Lucia’s Day is coming up soon and there are buns to bake.  The solstice will be here not long after and there will be celebrating to be done then.  Before we know it SAnta will be making his yearly deliveries and just like that it will be over.

But, then I suppose the season wouldn’t be so special if it weren’t also so very fleeting.